Margaret Cho Talks About Being Seen as a Smothering Mother to the Planet (Interview, Part Two)

In part one of our interview with comedian and musician Margaret Cho, we probed her about the Grammy award winning album Cho Dependent and she told us about her knee tattoos of presidents Lincoln and Washington.

See also:
- Margaret Cho On the Weirdest Place to Get a Tattoo (Interview, Part One)

In this second part, she talks about being seen as a mother figure, her own mom, her favorite television mama, and her newest stand up show, apt titled, Mother.

Part one of the interview.

New Times: As a woman, it seems like you have an amazing amount of confidence to be vulnerable and creative and put yourself out there. But you also have all of these insecurities. Do you think that one fuels the other? How do you see that? Like struggling with eating disorders but also being able to get on stage and make funny faces.

Margaret Cho: I enjoy it. I love comedy. I love the art form and I have a great respect for it. I always try as good as I can. And that's most important to me, to be good. And beyond that, internalizing feelings of insecurity. It's all kind of worth it if you can go and do the job. It's sort of its own reward. I try to focus on that.

What inspired Mother? Are you interested in being a mother?

Maybe. It's more about my mother and about motherhood in that I'm a woman in her forties and now people are relating to me as if I'm like a mom. I think it's good, because I do have a lot that I can offer. I tend to be a mother to the world. And even though I'm not literally a mom. I can fill that role in certain aspects. This is kind of looking at it like me being a mom and smothering the planet. And that my mother is somebody that's such a big symbol to me. And now I'm older than she was when she raised me. It's kind of weird to think about being older than your parents when they were your parents. That's kind of my take on everything. It's like this is my adult life, and that's a weird freedom and responsibility to have.

You do a lot for young gay kids. Do you feel like as a gay icon, you have to live up to that role ever?

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I think it's wonderful. I'm very proud of that. That to me is a really brave thing. And I'm queer also, so this is a really brave wonderful way that I can serve my community and talk about the way that we raise each other. We take care of each other. A lot of young gay kids get thrown out of their homes and they're displaced from their families so they have to create their own families.

What are you doing now with gay causes?

It's sort of my life's purpose. It's never out of my mind. You're like constantly thinking about it and constantly talking about it, and doing something. That's what's really important, keeping the conversation going about bullying, about how to survive it and all of that is very important.

Bullying sucks, but do you think that maybe people who've never been bullied are missing out on something? Bullying is bad, but can it also build character?

Maybe, I don't know who I would be without it. I don't know who a lot of creative people, amazing people would be without it. There are instances where a lot people I know who are really exceptional that I know have experienced it. If you're different, exceptional, it's kind of what happens, it's par for the course. It's something that's a sign that you're going to be somehow very special. It depends on how you react.

Do you have a favorite movie or television mother that you wish you had or could be like?

I like Bonnie Franklin from One Day at a Time. That was a really good one. She was like a mature mom who had the mature daughters, Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli. She's like a single mom. She was my favorite.

It's hard to be a mother to a daughter. Is there something you think your mom got right that you think other moms could replicate with their children?

I think what my mother did was she really gave me the idea that being gay was safe, that being gay was OK. It was never any kind of issue. She was very understanding of gay people and she wanted me to be unafraid of expressing that part of me. That was a really great thing. I think that comes from her life, working in a gay bookstore amongst gay employees and spending time with them and learning about the gay culture that was happening in San Francisco in the '70s and AIDS and we all survived this terrible plague that really took our whole community from us in a sense. But she was the greatest kind of explaining what being gay was. That was really important.

Margaret Cho. 8 p.m., January 27, at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Dreyfoos Hall, 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $15 to $100 plus fees. Visit kravis.org, or call 561-832-7469.

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